outdoors

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So for Father’s Day my wife and daughter got me two books, Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) and Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share. We decided to start working through some of the projects and this weekend we picked the “Best Slip ‘n Slide Ever” project from the Geek Dad book.  Basically it involves constructing a super home-made water slide that rivals anything you can find in the stores.  I decided to document our build progress and include our successes and failures for the benefit of others.

The materials needed are:

  • Roll of heavy-duty plastic (we used an 8′ wide 6-mil roll) ~ $35
  • Foam pool noodles (number determines length of slide) ~ $2 each
  • Optional – large pool noodle for end ~ $5 each
  • Self-sticking Velcro strips (enough for two pieces per noodle) ~ $0.50/noodle
  • Sprinkler hose or lawn sprinkler ~ $6 per 50′ hose or ~$5 for a simple sprinkler
  • Stakes (I had some so don’t have a price)
  • Patience, an hour or so, a nice warm day, and a steady supply of water

Here are the materials we used:

Slide Materials

Slide Materials

The first thing you do is figure out how long you want to make your slide.  We laid out 6 noodles with about a foot between each to get a 35′ slide (each noodle is 5′).

Sizing the Slide

Sizing the Slide

Once we figured out how long to make it, I left a little bit extra on either end, at the front for an area to double up the material for staking it down and at the end for wrapping it around a big noodle to stop you.  Next we unfolded the roll and pulled it straight and flat.  You can see in the next picture the area at the front where we double (actually quadruple) folded the plastic so that it would resist tearing when we put in the stakes:

Unrolled Slide

Unrolled Slide

With the slide plastic unrolled, you can start laying out the noodles and applying the Velcro strips.  We used two pieces of Velcro towards the end of each noodle and positioned them so you can fold the plastic around the noodle and stick the plastic to itself.

Positioning Velcro Strips and Noodles

Positioning Velcro Strips and Noodles

Do that for all the noodles down the length of the slide and then fold the material over so it sticks and traps the noodles in place.  Be sure to keep the same line going down so that the slide stays straight.  We matched up the edge of the folded-over piece to one of the creases in the plastic material.  We also used some heavy bags to hold the slide in place while we worked so the wind didn’t mess with it as much.

One Side Complete with Velcro and Noodles

One Side Complete with Velcro and Noodles

Continue to the other side, trying to match the position of the noodles with the first side as you go down:

Second Side Ready to Stick Together

Second Side Ready to Stick Together

Once both sides are complete, flip the whole slide over and stake down the top (we also pulled the whole thing really taught and staked the other end as well).  You can run sprinkler hose down each side by the noodles to keep the slide wet:

Completed Slide with Sprinkler Hose

Completed Slide with Sprinkler Hose

Finally, when we staked the other end, we also wrapped up a large noodle in the excess plastic to serve as a stop for you as you get to the end (actually worked more like a speed bump if you were going fast enough at the end and didn’t stop by then).

Slide End with Large Noodle Bump

Slide End with Large Noodle Bump

So you are probably wondering, “how did it work?” Well, it actually worked great once we ironed out some kinks in our implementation of the “Best Slip ‘n Slide Ever.”  First, you need to keep the plastic really tightly pulled so it doesn’t bunch up anywhere.  To do that we pulled it really tight and re-staked it at the front and back.  You also need to really bunch up the plastic where you stake it otherwise it will tend to tear as you use the slide.  Second, the sprinkler hose that we had kept on bursting out the side near the water connection.  I don’t know if we just put too much pressure in it or what, but that hose was a big failure.  If it had worked it would have been great since the hose provided water down the whole length on both sides.  We ended up just using a regular lawn sprinkler set to always shower down over the slide towards the middle and front (since the yard is sloped towards the back, the water ends up flowing towards the end anyway).  Finally, make sure you get a nice run going before you jump on and make sure the slide is nice and wet.  My daughter and I were both able to get all the way down to the end (and sometimes past) once we got our water source tweaked.

Overall, it was a nice DIY project that turned out to be a very impressive slide.  For about the same price as you pay for those commercial Slip ‘n Slides, we made our own that will last a lot longer, is a lot longer and wider, and is sure to be a hit with the other kids in our family (and probably the parents too!).